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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Column: DeRozan, Raptors need to shut up about Lance Stephenson

<p>Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) celebrates as Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) watches during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, April 4, 2017. The Pacers defeated the Raptors 108-90. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)</p>

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) celebrates as Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) watches during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, April 4, 2017. The Pacers defeated the Raptors 108-90. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

In the final moments of Tuesday night’s game between the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors, Pacers guard Lance Stephenson scored an uncontested layup with 3.3 seconds left in the game. The blue-and-gold-clad crowd in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis erupted with excited applause.

There was just one problem.

Indiana was already up 15 points before Stephenson — who signed a three-year, $12 million deal to come back to Indiana on March 29, according to ESPN’s Chris Haynes — tacked on the extra layup in the meaningless final seconds of the Pacers’ 108-90 blowout of the Raptors.

Toronto took exception.

As Stephenson trotted back down the court, he was met by a wall of angry Raptors, including forward P.J. Tucker and All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan.

After the game, Toronto coach Dwane Casey called Stephenson’s play “bush league.”

Tucker was less polite.

“Tasteless,” Tucker said, per Vigilant Sports’ Scott Agness. “Classless. There’s nowhere in the league for that.”

DeRozan added to that sentiment, telling ESPN reporters that Stephenson’s layup was “disrespectful to the game.”

Honestly, Tucker, DeRozan and the Raptors organization just need to shut up.

If I were them, I’d be more upset with the defense surrendering 35 points to Paul George, or allowing the Pacers to shoot nearly 48 percent from beyond the arc, or with newly acquired forward Serge Ibaka scoring eight points on 3-of-13 shooting.

Yes, what Stephenson did was not necessarily the right thing to do. Maybe it was classless, tasteless or whatever you want to call it. Even his own teammates acknowledged what Stephenson did was wrong.

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But Toronto should be the last team to criticize Stephenson for such a play.

In a game with the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2015-16 season, then-Raptors rookie Norman Powell stole an inbounds pass, raced down the court and threw down a windmill dunk with 1.2 seconds left on the clock.

His team was leading by 22.

Did the 76ers’ players complain? Did they confront Powell on the court and then badmouth him to the media after the game?

No. They inbounded the ball, the game clock expired, and they walked off the court. Simple as that.

Obviously, basketball has its unwritten rules, and scoring in the final moments of a game when your team has a huge lead is as close to a basketball sin as it gets.

But still, get over it.

Worry more about what you did wrong to ultimately put yourself down 15 in the first place, especially when you’re guilty of committing the same “sin.”

Ray Boone is a sports writer. His columns appear on Fridays. Contact him at rboone@alligator.org, and follow him on Twitter @rboone1994.

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) celebrates as Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) watches during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, April 4, 2017. The Pacers defeated the Raptors 108-90. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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